CFI.co Meets the CEO of SSF: Sam Shawki Fawaz
Mr Sam Shawki Fawaz, managing director and CEO of SSF Entrepreneur, has accumulated over forty years of experience in Liberia’s business world. His career has crisscrossed the economy from forestry to construction and road building. Though born in Lebanon, Mr Fawaz has spent his entire adult life working and living in Liberia. He arrived in the country in the 1960s as a teenager. He is married to a Liberian lady.
Mr Fawaz graduated in business management and started his career in 1974 at the United Logging Company where he first rose to the position of operations manager before becoming the company’s managing director. He also provided management support to subsidiary companies in other parts of Liberia.
These positions afforded him the opportunity to bear direct responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the feeder road network within the logging concession areas and for other major roads required for the unimpeded transportation of round log cargoes from the forests to the ports for overseas shipment. The construction and maintenance of this road network was critical to the operations of logging companies, ensuring that the cargoes of logs were readily available at various point of discharge for export.
The closure of logging operations in 1989 – a direct result of the outbreak of the civil war that was to rage on for 14 years – did not diminish Mr Fawaz’ desire to remain engaged with the country. The end of the conflict awarded Mr Fawaz the opportunity to start a road construction business. He thus realised a lifelong-desire to run his own company.
During the war years, Liberia’s road network was largely destroyed through neglect. As such, it could not support the plans of international organizations like the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for the return and reintegration of thousands of Liberian refugees from neighbouring countries.
This situation provided an opportunity to Mr Fawaz who promptly provided consultancy services to the UNCHR. He later managed to fully engage in the road rehabilitation sector. The partnership with UNHCR resulted in the first major intervention by SSF in 2004. This work contributed significantly to the ultimate success of the UNHCR-sponsored return and reintegration programmes for Liberian refugees from Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone to the Lofa and Nimba Counties in Liberia.
The experience emphasised the importance of good all-weather roads, not just to the livelihood of the displaced people, but to the economic recovery of the country as well. This led to the incorporation of SSF Entrepreneur. In 2005, Mr Fawaz entered a joint ownership of SSF Entrepreneur with Mr Anwar Ezedine.
Over the years, Mr Fawaz has succeeded in establishing SSF Entrepreneur as a formidable partner to the Government of Liberia in the road construction sector. He has amply demonstrated to possess the required capacity to take on even the most challenging contracts awarded by the Ministry of Public Works – the entity charged with statutory oversight responsibilities for road construction across Liberia.
Although Mr Fawaz has no formal training as an engineer, he has accumulated vast knowledge of road infrastructure and building techniques, as well as an enviable stock of managerial competences. This valuable experience is largely responsible for the level of success SSF Entrepreneur has achieved today. Mr Fawaz believes the success of his company may be ascribed to his foresight in exploiting niches in Liberia’s road infrastructure sector.
The managerial and entrepreneurial skills of Mr Fawaz – coupled to his close relationships with workers, chiefs, elders, community leaders and other stakeholders – have not only catapulted SSF Entrepreneur to the top spot in the road building sector, but have endeared him to the people of Liberia as well.
This should come as no surprise given his numerous social contributions –including scholarships, donations of medicine to clinics, and the provision of food stuffs to communities in which the company operates. This comes in addition to the long-standing company policy of only hiring local labour.
Even so, this husband and father of six does not rest on his many laurels. Instead, Mr Fawaz now aims to transform SSF Entrepreneur into a regional powerhouse in the construction sector across West Africa.